Postcard from Campeche, Mexico: Forging artistic works of iron

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Hard to photograph against dark doors, wrought iron has not gone out of fashion in Campeche. The ornate designs vary as much as that of the cornices in the historic center. The material’s resistance to corrosion by salt air makes it a favorite for more than protective bars in a climate where maximizing air circulation through every portal is wise, but it also historically is preferred for indoor furniture and chandeliers.

While bars offer protection, their commonplace usage should not indicate Campeche is unsafe. Without referencing any actual  statistics, our observations seemed to confirm how every resident there describes their hometown: Es muy tranquilo.

How safe is Campeche? In a large bustling seaside restaurant, someone felt comfortable enough to leave their cellphone charging on the bathroom sink. On a busy Saturday, someone casually left their keys in the ignition of his motorbike while he went into Walmart. With living rooms opening up directly to the sidewalk, families on our street did not hesitate to leave the doors wide open while gathered around the television set at night. Parents picking up children from the private preschool nearby would leave their cars running while they went inside to fetch their kids. Baby asleep in the car? Don’t disturb her. Just leave all the car windows down so there’s plenty of air.

Es muy tranquilo.

Postcard from Campeche, Mexico: Sunday Night Sounds

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Brrrrr…. The woman playing the guiro in the Campeche State Charanga Band, a brass band, one Sunday night in January expressed her surprise at how cold it was. Campeche is normally so temperate. This particular evening the temperature had plunged down to a frigid 65 degrees.

The mild climate means the Sunday night musical concerts on Campeche’s main plaza rarely need to be cancelled. We stopped by twice, once for a marimba concert and once for the charanga music. The lit cathedral serves as a majestic backdrop, and the concerts are followed by a sound and light show projected on the government building on one side of the plaza.

The surprising thing about the concerts was, unlike in most Mexican cities we have visited, no couples were dancing. Perhaps the Campechanos were saving their energy for their upcoming wild celebration of Carnaval.

 

Postcard from Bergamo, Italy: An unmerciful alarmclock

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It went off every morning. Only one rooftop away from our fifth floor window in the apartment we rented in Bergamo, Italy, this past summer. There was no way to be lazy and sleep through the clanging bell because it sounded as though it was next to us in bed. Fortunately, it waited until daylight and didn’t feel compelled to let us know as each hour passed during the night.

A block away, the bell hanging in the 11th-century Torre del Campanone tolls 100 times at 10 p.m., a reminder of the strict curfew imposed by Germans in the town during World War II. But then, until morning, all is quiet.

The alarm clock is among the eccentricities encountered renting apartments versus staying in hotels. This rental was located on the fifth floor directly over the main pedestrian street passing through the Alta Citta. Restaurants were only a few steps away.

But on weekends or if tour buses had just unloaded passengers downhill, we had to be careful stepping into the street from our doorway so as not to get run over by the herd jamming the narrow street, much like the crowds on the River Walk at home. One of those play-me pianos below echoed of “Chopsticks” way too often but, sometimes, would attract really talented pianists to sit down for a spell.

The window provided a daily weather report, and the landscape seen from the windows on the flights of stairs at the rear made the climb easier. We also enjoyed birds-eye views of parishioners bearing saints on parade or wedding parties headed to or from one of the numerous churches. And the street was so narrow, we even made an Italian friend on the fifth floor across the street who traded blues guitar licks with the Mister one afternoon.

Love this inexpensive way of slowed-down travel….